California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Aug. 24.

Firefighters brace for forecast of lightning and high winds.
A major deal to thin California's overgrown forests.
And police raid a magic mushroom "church" in Oakland.

California wildfires


Cliff Giannuzzi looked over the charred remains of his home in Vacaville on Sunday.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

The LNU and SCU Lightning Complexes ringing the Bay Area are now the second- and third-largest wildfires in California history. All told, more than two dozen major wildfires and many more small ones have burned over 2,000 square miles across the state in recent days — amounting to an area equivalent to roughly four Los Angeleses. Fire officials said the sheer magnitude of the crisis meant Californians should prepare for a long haul. “We’re going to be here for a while: weeks and possibly longer,” a Cal Fire chief said Sunday. S.F. Chronicle | A.P. | Sacramento Bee

California's wildfires by the numbers as of Sunday:

100,000 — people displaced
1,134 — homes and other structures destroyed
14,000 — firefighters on the front lines
5 — lives lost

Other major fires were disrupting lives and landscapes in Lassen County, Sonoma County, Mendocino National Forest, Sequoia National Park, and Big Sur, where a 30-square-mile blaze entered the popular Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

See maps of major fires across the state. 👉 S.F. Chronicle | L.A. Times | Cal Fire


Smoke hung low in Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Saturday.

Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Firefighters made some headway over the weekend thanks to mild weather — but it wasn't expected to last. A red flag warning was issued from Sunday through Monday afternoon for the Bay Area and Central Coast ahead of an ominous weather system packing high winds and more of the dry lightning strikes that sparked massive blazes a week earlier. “There’s a lot of potential for things to really go crazy out there,” a battalion chief said. A.P. | Mercury News


Before the onset of the Gold Rush in 1848, large parts of California burned every few decades, with blazes lasting for months. Then a century of aggressive fire suppression left forests dried and overgrown. Now, in a little-noticed milestone, a major deal has been signed that calls for California and federal agencies to begin thinning out a million acres of forests and other landscapes every year — more than double the current rate. Mercury News


Leah C. Stokes, a professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, writing in the Atlantic: "I don’t want to live in a world where we have to decide which mask to wear for which disaster, but this is the world we are making. And we’ve only started to alter the climate. Imagine what it will be like when we’ve doubled or tripled the warming, as we are on track to do."


One secret weapon in firefighters' arsenal: Superscoopers, Canadian aircraft that are often loaned to California fire departments in the summer. Two of the planes have been seen scooping water into their bellies from Tomales Bay in a battle against the ongoing Woodward Fire in Marin County. Reached by the California Sun, Sgt. Brenton Schneider of the Marin County Sheriff's Office said the Superscoopers had been "extremely useful" in part because of their remarkable efficiency. "They can scoop up water five minutes or so after making a drop."

Here's a Superscooper making quick work of a brush fire in the San Gabriel Valley last September. 👇

via KTLA


Other wildfire developments:

President Trump declared California's fires a major disaster, unlocking federal aid. Gov. Gavin Newsom said despite Trump's frequent sniping at California, "there’s not phone call that I have made to the president where he hasn’t quickly responded.” Sacramento Bee
"Absolutely disgusting." While a firefighter was out battling a blaze in the Santa Cruz Mountains, someone stole his wallet from a work vehicle and drained his bank account. SFist | KGO
California's wildfire smoke has been so thick it made it to Nebraska. Still, farmworkers have continued to go into the fields. "People are pushed to make an impossible choice," an environmental justice advocate said. The Guardian



UC Berkeley students protested the passage of Proposition 209, prohibiting affirmative action, in 1996.

Ben Margot/A.P.

This November, California voters will have the opportunity to reverse a ban on affirmative action. A comprehensive new study found that by nearly every measure, the ban has harmed Black and Hispanic students, decreasing their number in the University of California system while reducing their odds of finishing college, going to graduate school, and earning a high salary. N.Y. Times


Last summer, Oakland became the second U.S. city to essentially decriminalize "magic mushrooms," telling its police force to make the psychedelic plants among its lowest priorities. But a couple weeks ago, police officers raided a mushroom "church" in Oakland that's believed to be the country's only brick-and-mortar venue for buying psilocybin. “I guess there’s nothing else going on in Oakland,” the church’s minister said. Vice | KQED


Coronavirus roundup:

A family was headed home to Wuhan from a Mexican vacation. But as they passed through LAX on Jan. 22, the father was overcome with a fever. Here's the surprising story of the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in L.A. and the fourth in the U.S. L.A. Times
California's second- and third-largest counties — Orange and San Diego — have been dropped from the state's watchlist of counties with worrisome Covid-19 statistics. School districts in both counties are moving to reopen campuses. O.C. Register | KABC
"This guy is a legend." Pedro Castellano, a deaf street vendor in Long Beach, was forced to stay home for months during the pandemic. So a local group organized people to buy out his entire cart. They also raised more than $4,600 for him. Long Beach Post

Janis Friedlander Svendsen

☝️ Here's a striking example of the new normal in 2020.

This is the television director Glenn Weiss, barefoot, helming the 2020 Democratic National Convention on a picnic table setup in his living room in Los Angeles. Weiss helped direct 58 cameras, dozens of speakers, and hundreds of production personnel — all while a heat wave threatened to sever power. Variety

Flashback: Weiss memorably proposed to his girlfriend while accepting an Emmy in 2018. 👉 YouTube


California wonders



In the 1950s, a wealthy businessman built a collection of pools and slides for his family in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Over time, it became a full-fledged water park and opened to the public. It failed in the 1980s, then reopened in 1998 and failed again. Now, there's serious talk of reviving it again.

Until then, it lives on as a playground for instagrammers and urban explorers as well as a dusty monument to hubris in the desert. Atlas Obscura | Lost America

Below, a few more photos.


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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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